A Response From Pepsi

Today, a Pepsi-Cola Company representative posted this comment on Feministe as a response to my post about the “lifeguard ad”:

Official Response from Pepsi-Cola Company:

Pepsi-Cola Company wants to assure you that there’s absolutely no Pepsi advertisement in circulation that even remotely resembles the creative in question. After investigating this matter further, we learned that an advertising agency developed this print ad on “speculation” and it inadvertently made its way to the internet.

Please know that we would never use this type of imagery to sell our products. We are not using this image now, nor do we have any plans to use it in the future.

We’re sincerely sorry that this has upset you and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to set the record straight. If anyone following this topic would like to discuss this issue further, free to contact me at the email address listed below.

Bart Casabona
Pepsi-Cola Company

I followed up with Bart to verify that this is in fact an official statement.  In his response to my email, Bart also expressed his respect and understanding for our offense at the ad and assured me that Pepsi would never choose to market their brand in this manner.

I for one certainly appreciate that Pepsi took the time to look into this, and that their response not only denied but also denounced this advertisement.  I think it’s very important for them to do so when these ads have been gaining traction in advertising circles (where I myself looked in attempt to validate them) as legitimate.  The company may not have created the ad, but their branding is still on it; for that reason they needed come out against the values perpetuated in the image.  And I very much hope that Pepsi will not be using the advertising agency that created this ad in the future.

As for the ad itself . . . I think that this whole thing has been a rather interesting if not particularly surprising experiment in rape apologism.  I spent the weekend wading through, deleting and occassionally responding to large volumes of troll comments on two different blogs.  In those comments, I was called everything under the sun and the outrage that many of us felt upon seeing this ad was harshly mocked.  The complaint from every single one of these people was not that the ad was illegitimate, but that there was nothing wrong with it.  That response coupled with the fact that advertising promoting non-consensual sexual behavior is indeed very real says a lot about what I orginally declared the issue to be — rape culture. The ad is fake; rape culture is not.  While fully acknowledging and regretting the error here, I think it’s important to remember that.

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27 comments for “A Response From Pepsi

  1. October 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Good to know that Pepsi isn’t actually using this ad. Still disturbing that an ad agency would create it in the first place, and think that Pepsi would accept it.

  2. Shae
    October 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Doesn’t “speculation” mean that the ad agency created it, but Pepsi didn’t accept it?

    Also weird that, according to the other post, the ad agency had it on their site for a while. That was gutsy if Pepsi rejected it, as it would seem they could get sued. It seems to be down now.

    Any chance it really did air in France and Pepsi is covering up? I guess not, since it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to in France to verify that they’d seen it.

  3. marilove
    October 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    This kind of thing happens. Things leak all the time when they shouldn’t. So I’m not surprised by this. Happy, but not surprised! Happier still, because I much prefer Pepsi over coke. Though I prefer RC over Pepsi. RC > Pepsi > Coke. Haha.

  4. October 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Doesn’t “speculation” mean that the ad agency created it, but Pepsi didn’t accept it?

    Right. They would have made it for Pepsi and pitched it to them. Therefore, the info found about the agency that created the ad/photography credits seems very legit. But the ad is not a “real” Pepsi ad in the sense that Pepsi seems to have not used it in any way to market their products.

    And yes, this makes me happy both in the sense that Pepsi isn’t marketing their products like this, and in the sense that I get to keep drinking Mountain Dew the once or twice a week that I drink it.

  5. Shae
    October 20, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Ah — I misread the last part of Jill’s comment, and thought she was saying that Pepsi had accepted it in some way but not used it.

    Yes, it’s good that Pepsi rejected it.

    I still prefer Coke though. Not that I drink either very often.

  6. marilove
    October 20, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    The best is the sugar-cane Coke (or Pepsi, for that matter) from Mexican. OMG ORGASM IN A BOTTLE.

  7. marilove
    October 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Mexican = Mexico, obvs lol.

  8. October 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I’m not convinced Pepsi is telling the whole story. Here’s some more background on the ad itself from an online advertising gallery.

    Released: October 2008
    Avertiser: PEPSI
    Agency: CLM BBDO
    Country: France
    Category: Non-alcoholic drinks
    Soft drinks
    Tags: Vincent Dixon, Prints

    Client: Pepsi
    Agency: CLM BBDO
    Creative Director: Jean Francois Sacco,
    Gilles Fichteberg
    Copywriter: Vincent Pedrocchi
    Art Director: Cedric Moutaud
    Photographer: Vincent Dixon

    I don’t think this was a leak, per se.

    Could the Pepsi spokesman have been unaware of what the brand was doing in France?

  9. October 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Lindsay — he claims to have looked into it. Again, I have yet to see any evidence that Pepsi has distributed the ad or that it has appeared in print anywhere.

  10. October 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I got a similar reply just now. Here is the person who e-mailed me, if anyone would like her contact info:

    Margaret Corsi
    Consumer Relations Representative
    margaret.corsi @ pepsi.com

  11. October 20, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I just wanted to say that I am relieved that they don’t plan on using this for advertising. When I first saw it, I was incredibly disturbed. It was not because I have a connection to Pepsi per say as they are not a good corporation but that such misogyny could be made so public.
    While I am relieved that the ad is not going to be used its creation is still problematic. It tells us that there are people that have no problem attempting to profit from abusing women. That it even occurred to someone to think that this might work to see products reminds us all of just how vulnerable women are in this world.

  12. Charity
    October 20, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Just wanted to say I got the email from Margaret Corsi too, and am also “relieved” it’s not being used, although the fact that it was created at all and presumably expected to be picked up, continues to be very disturbing. I also wanted to say a quick thanks to Cara and the other Feministe bloggers / moderators for such good comment moderation; it rarely occurs to me what kinds of things, and what volume of hate, you are shielding us from and I should not get complacent about that.

  13. denelian
    October 20, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    selfishly, i am VERY glad. i admit to being adicted to pepsi.

    also, the person who contacted you said he understood why you (and other ppl, i presume) were outraged – which means that there are people who are mocing up in major corporations who are GETTING IT

  14. October 20, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    I’m glad Pepsi came out and hopefully set the record straight. I saw the ad on a site that gave information on the ad designer, copywriter and such stating that it was for France.

    The person on the site was actually praising it as a great ad. *blech*

  15. comakid
    October 20, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I think its interesting that, THAT many trollers hang around to tell us how dumb we are when we point out something purely messed up. I hate to be reminded of how profoundly narrow and scary most people think.

    I love this website because its just about the only place I can go to hear people say actual intelligent things.

  16. cockeyed
    October 20, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    There will always be people who will put down anything that feminists are upset about because of the stereotype that has been perpetuated by this. But they don’t get that this isn’t a feminist issue. It’s a social issue.
    So it’s okay to take advantage of an unconcious woman? I’m sorry, but that’s not funny. Period.
    Trolls are just there to rile you up, and they don’t really have an agenda. Just keep on doing what you do best. Love the blog, and I won’t stop reading.

  17. Amanda
    October 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Yeah!! Like everyone else, despised the ad when I saw it posted here, and decided to boycott Pepsi – which made me sad b/c I’m a Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi gal. Hooray Pepsi for not using the ad & for reaching out to consumers to let them know that! Hooray Cara for posting it and publicizing it!

  18. October 20, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I am relieved to hear that this is a fraud.

    BTW, did you all hear the sexist bullshit that Andy Rooney said on 60 minutes last night? I posted it on my blog.

  19. October 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Whatever the case they stopped it, but I too have some doubts. I posted about this the other day and researched the link to the add company clm/bbdo. When I went to their website and clicked print that ad was the first ad that showed up and Pepsi was listed as if their client.


    I referenced the fact in my post.

    Now, however the picture is gone, and Pepsi is not longer listed as their client, but I would testily under oath that was not the case when I wrote that post.

    So I am not convinced that Pepsi was not their client, what I am convinced of is they no longer are. And that is a good thing.

  20. Emmy
    October 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

    After eMailing them last night, I received a response similar to this one. Except mine varied with: “I want to assure you that there’s absolutely no truth to the posting you may have seen on the internet.”

    Her contact info is if anyone needs it:
    Julieann Benes

  21. Linnaeus
    October 21, 2008 at 8:29 am

    And I very much hope that Pepsi will not be using the advertising agency that created this ad in the future.

    I don’t know if Pepsi will break completely with BBDO, who has handled Pepsi’s advertising since 1960, but apparently Pepsi’s had plans in the works to move some of that work to other agencies (which may not mean much since so many of them are related through holding companies, etc.). This certainly won’t help.

  22. Bagelsan
    October 21, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I kinda want to see this ad photoshopped to the logical conclusion; have the kid staring down lustfully at a corpse in a bodybag. (Hmm, not as sexy/acceptable now? Fancy that!)

  23. October 21, 2008 at 11:14 am

    If only Dolce and Gabbana could have been as smart as Pepsi…

  24. October 22, 2008 at 12:10 am

    ya i somehow doubt that it was created purely on spec and that pepsi had no involvement in the ad agency proceeding with the creation of it… usually specs are created by new directors/photographers wanting to create a demo reel or portfolio in hopes of getting work… budgets are generally pretty tight and extra money is not usually spent out of the goodness of the advertising agency’s heart for a big name photographer and elaborate shoot. the fact that the ad was created in the first place and that pepsi is a long time client of this huge ad agency who then posted the ad on their website should raise concern. but who are we kidding? they are a mega corporation, it’s in their best interest to try to make us feel better lest we start investigating all their ad campaigns and company practices for all their bazillion products that are unhealthy and harm the environment, in addition to contributing to the sexualization and exploitation of women.

    and when we’re calling out corporations for the ads they paid for, we need to be calling out the ‘creative masterminds’ for their unacceptable behaviour as well. wouldn’t it be great if all this so-called creativity and talent was put to use to make the world a better place instead of worse?

  25. October 22, 2008 at 3:50 am

    cooper: Now, however the picture is gone, and Pepsi is not longer listed as their client, but I would testily under oath that was not the case when I wrote that post.

    It’s entirely possible that the Internet reaction to this ad was the cause of Pepsi breaking it off with that ad agency and ordering them to remove the ad from their website. (It’s also possible that no one with the authority at Pepsi to do just that was aware that the rejected ad was up at the agency’s website until the Internet reaction.)

    The ad agency are scumbags. I think in this instance Pepsi comes out clean.

    Still don’t drink coke of any description, though. Ugh.

  26. October 22, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I guess Pepsi want to erase any trace that this ad ever existed. I would guess they contacted the advertising agency after the complaints were received. I too got an email response from Julieann about there being no truth to the posting. But I saw the ad at other sites which focused on the advertising agency and saw postings praising the ad from some unenlightened individuals.

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